Advice on buying my first MacBook

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by BlueOcean, Jun 15, 2012.

  1. BlueOcean, Jun 15, 2012
    Last edited: Jun 15, 2012

    BlueOcean macrumors member

    Joined:
    Jun 15, 2012
    #1
    This is my first post on the forum, although I've lurked for many a year :) Before I go on, apologies for the length to follow and also I understand there are many similar threads, but I wanted some personalised advice.

    I'm going to be starting a postgraduate degree in a couple of months, so I'm looking to buy a MacBook of some sort. At present, I don't need portability so I've been exclusively using a 2008 24" Alu iMac for 4 years, which has 2.8Ghz C2D, upgraded 4GB RAM and now the ATI 2600 256MB graphics card (it had the 8800GS 512MB but that conked out recently due to the well-known failure of those chips I'm guessing). My degree won't really influence my computer choice since I could technically get by with almost anything. If anything, I suspect the only requirement would be to virtualise Windows as there might be some Win-specific statistical software I need to use.

    However, as the iMac is probably going to stay at home, the MacBook would become my primary computer for much of the year. Potentially, I will need the computer for the duration of my research which could be 4 or 5 years. I tend to like to buy big and then not have to worry about it for many years down the line - my iMac is actually still fine for the most part.

    Options

    1. Top end MacBook Air with 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD (about £1200)
    2. 13" MBP low end with 3rd party 8GB RAM (about £950), and potential to add 256GB SSD and optibay (£1200 total)
    3. 15" MBP low end with 3rd party 8GB RAM, hi-res antiglare (about £1400), and potential to add 256GB SSD and optibay (£1650 total)
    4. Retina MBP low end with 16GB RAM (about £1670)

    Analysis

    As far as studying is concerned, I'm a pen and paper sort of guy, so I will never use a laptop for that. Hence I'm not sure whether I'd be carrying it every day. But, the lighter it is, the more likely I'll keep it around just in case I need to look something up. I could also read papers and do some internet research. I doubt I'll be needing an optical drive.

    More strain is going to be put on it from personal use than work use I'm guessing. I use my Mac a lot for recreation in terms of internet, music, video etc. But also, I do record music using Logic, edit images with Photoshop, do a bit of light video editing and light gaming.

    I do most gaming on my PS3, and play older stuff and things like Minecraft and Source games on my computer. I know the HD4000 can realistically handle this, but I'm all for allowing myself some extra capacity should I decide to play something like Civ etc.

    The thick MBPs are clearly better value for money, and honestly, I'm a little worried that 256GB is not enough. My current iMac has a 500GB HDD. I'm using about 250GB of that now, which includes a 65GB Win XP partition. I suspect a Win 7 partition on my MacBook would take up more. Most of my videos are on an external anyway, but even if I moved it all off there, I don't think I'd leave myself much breathing room with a 256GB SSD.

    However, as I mentioned before, I don't need the optical drive and would be more inclined to carry something that was lighter. I don't really care much about RAM expandability on the Air/Retina as I'd max them out, but configuring the Air with a 512GB SSD comes to £1500 - only slightly less than putting a 256GB SSD in the 15" Pro AND having the 500GB HDD in there too. Really, I guess I need to figure out whether I can sacrifice the performance and value for extreme portability, so some personal opinions would help there.

    I can't afford to get the high end Retina as the base w/ 16GB is at the very limit for me, and so the SSD would be an issue again. But as for power in a small package, it is very tempting. I have a 24" 1080p TV that I use for my PS3, so the HDMI would be useful (as I understand, the Thunderbolt/Mini Display doesn't do audio and it would obviously mean I cannot connect any TB devices at the same time as outputting to the TV if I needed to). I'm not sure that I would be using the TV all the time as a monitor though (probably just for movies/games) so the MBP 13's low res is a bit of a turn-off.

    Finally, I'm a bit worried about all these teething troubles that the Retina seems to have as it's first rev hardware and so it might be a bit of a gamble if this is going to be my only computer.

    That's about all I can think of right now - sorry for the wordiness, and of course if there's anything I've missed, let me know. Thanks for reading.
     
  2. miles01110 macrumors Core

    miles01110

    Joined:
    Jul 24, 2006
    Location:
    The Ivory Tower (I'm not coming down)
    #2
    Macbook Airs seem to be designed to lock people in to a 2-3 year upgrade cycle. I wouldn't buy one of those if you want it to last and run well 4-5 years from now.
     
  3. BlueOcean, Jun 16, 2012
    Last edited: Jun 16, 2012

    BlueOcean thread starter macrumors member

    Joined:
    Jun 15, 2012
    #3
    Well, I've barely touched my iMac in 4 years (just RAM), so if I configure a MBA beforehand, I may be able to get it to last. However, the ULV processor in the MBA seems like it would be the first to seem obsolete after a few years. So, all in all, you're probably right in that the MBA is not right for me, which I did suspect, but still considered it because of its portability.

    This still leaves options 2,3 and 4 though. :confused:
     

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